Finally! Pony Blow had some Good News! on Iraq for us in today’s gaggle:
MR. SNOW: Meanwhile, the U.S. military says that, in fact, it will meet its training goal for Iraqi security forces by the end of the year.
But upon further examination, the news is not that good after all.
Q Tony, I was at the briefing at the Pentagon yesterday by General Dempsey, and it was actually a very sobering briefing, because when he talked about the Iraqi troops, he talked about their lack of equipment, the problems with attrition, and in response to my question, the biggest problem, leadership, not being able to find good leaders to lead the Iraqi troops that we train. And when he talked about them being equipped and ready for the end of the year, wasn’t ready to do anything independently — he said independent is not a word that applies now or anytime soon to these Iraqi forces.
MR. SNOW: That is correct.
Q Is the President concerned about the lack of progress, even more than three years into this?
MR. SNOW: Well, you are defining it as a lack of progress. I think what you’re talking about is basic training levels. But the President is perfectly aware of the need for developing leadership cadres. As you know, we have embedded teams working with training mid-level officers to, in fact, become capable of serving as unit commanders in Iraq.
Q How quickly is a case of progress —
MR. SNOW: Well, you do it as quickly as you can. And there is certainly no foot-dragging on the part of our guys, or I think of the Iraqis. And, again, I think you get an interesting new dynamic with the new government, because it becomes something more tangible also for Iraqi forces. They know that they’ve got a Minister of Defense to whom they answer. They know that they have a civilian chain of command that ends up with the Prime Minister. All those — who knows what kind of impact they’re going to have. The answer is, we are still determined to do everything as quickly, but as thoroughly and effectively as possible to enable Iraqi military forces to take full control of securing Iraq. This also includes the police forces, as you know, and that’s also been part of the ongoing dialogue. But we are certainly —
Q So the President is satisfied with the current pace?
MR. SNOW: The President — satisfied or dissatisfied, they’re moving as quickly as they can. So the most important thing is our forces are doing everything they can to help Iraq get trained up as quickly as possible, period.
The Pony Blow Show continues, Read More…
What does the Assministration have to say about Israel’s incursion into Gaza?
In any actions the government of Israel may undertake, the United States urges that it ensures that innocent civilians are not harmed, and also that it avoid the unnecessary destruction of property and infrastructure. All parties ought to take every measure to restore the security situation in Gaza.
Q And do we think that the Israeli response has been appropriate and within the limits that you’re talking about?
MR. SNOW: I’m not going to characterize further than what I’ve told you. There’s your statement of position.
Q But, Tony, the Israelis have bombed a power plant — that harms innocent civilians. Haven’t they, like, clearly gone beyond what you’ve just described here?
MR. SNOW: Again, I’m not going to get into operational details here. Let’s just point out once again, you have the Israeli — the Israeli forces are trying to reclaim somebody who is kidnapped and is being held hostage in Gaza, and they are doing what they can to return him. It would be a lot easier if the Palestinian Authority and if Hamas simply returned the kidnapped soldier. I am not going to get into rendering judgment on any of the operational details of what’s going on there.
Q Palestinian leaders have called this “collective punishment.” Is it, or isn’t it?
MR. SNOW: Again, I will just simply refer to it. I’m not going to get into the midst of the characterizations. I’ll repeat, the Palestinian Authority could make this very simple — they could return the kidnapped soldier. And the most important thing is to try to restore some semblance of security as rapidly as possible, and we hope both sides will cooperate in that.
Finally, count on Les to bring up Limpbaugh’s wee willie winkie.
Q Tony, two questions. Both the Associated Press and WorldNet Daily report that U.S. Immigration and Customs at Palm Beach International Airport detained Rush Limbaugh for three hours on Monday because they found in his searched luggage one bottle of Viagra, which fact was revealed to the world. And my question: Does the President believe this federal treatment of Limbaugh was fair, and did he believe Rush was wrong to make references to both Bob Dole and Bill Clinton and to announce, “I was worried about the next election,” as quoted by The Washington Post?
MR. SNOW: I think the President has had very little to say about it, but it was an amusing question and I thank you for it.